Ring-billed photos

Thanks to volunteers Geoff and Phil who helped do some maintenance jobs on the yard today, we were quite busy and failed to see any wildlife. Fortunately lots of birds were reported by visitors, including bittern, slavonian grebe, black-necked grebe, ring-billed gull and brambling. Most unseasonable sighting was of a juvenile adder out basking. Photographer Lorne Bissell kindly sent a couple of shots of the ring-billed gull, one on the Ibsley Water perch and another at Goosander hide.


Ring-billed gull on the big perch in Ibsley Water – Lorne Bissell

I’ve never been into keeping bird lists and I have no idea how many species of bird I’ve seen but for some reason I’ve been recording the species seen on the perch. So far we’ve had grey heron, cormorant, osprey, black tern, common tern, black-headed gull, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, sand martin, carrion crow and now ring-billed gull since we put it up in the summer. Pretty good I think.


Ring-billed gull on the rails at Goosander Hide – Lorne Bissell

This species is a vagrant from North America, somewhat similar to a common gull but can be identified by its bright yellow iris and small white mirrors on the primary feather tips. It also has a fainter, narrower white tertial-crescent than a common gull. Martin Bennett sent us some great shots of the ring-billed gull too, with a couple of black-headed gulls for comparison.

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Ring-billed gull (right) and two first winter black-headed gulls – Martin Bennett

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Ring-billed gull – Martin Bennett

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Yawning ring-billed gull – Martin Bennett

Martin also sent us the following shots of the black-throated diver that was present on Poulner lake a couple of weeks ago.

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Black-throated diver, Poulner Lake – Martin Bennett

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Black-throated diver feeding, Poulner lake – Martin Bennett

This bird has not been seen since the 14th of December now, and the last observer stated it didn’t look well and was behaving strangely, beaching itself in the shallows and poking about in the weed looking ill. This next photo perhaps sheds some light on why, as it appears to have fishing line and a small weight hanging from it’s beak. A real shame.

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Black-throated diver with fishing line and weight hanging from its beak, Poulner Lake – Martin Bennett

He also sent a couple of nice photos of the long staying drake ferruginous duck at Kingfisher lake, showing the great colours of this bird. Please note that Poulner lake and Kingfisher lake are outside the nature reserve and are not managed by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

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Ferruginous duck, Kingfisher lake – Martin Bennett

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Ferringinous duck and male Gadwall, Kingfisher lake – Martin Bennett

Mild weather sightings

I spent most of today collecting alder, ash and sycamore logs with the quad bike and trailer to sell for firewood. The current mild weather seems to be confusing wildlife as I heard chiffchaff and song thrush singing, and saw a white-tailed bumblebee. I also noticed quite a few spring flowers out like primroses, campions and lesser celandines. Crazy for December.


Tatty primrose trying to flower


A pale red campion in flower (or maybe a red campion and white campion hybrid). 

During the morning several visitors reported the bittern on Ivy lake (and unfortunately a very heated argument between a few visitors over the window seats), so I went to have my lunch at Ivy North hide.  My luck was in as the bittern was showing well to left of the hide and everyone was very considerate sharing the best seats allowing all to get great views and pictures.


Bittern at Ivy North hide

Later on I passed the woodland hide and found it busy with visitors and lots of birds. Finch numbers seem to be steadily rising with noticeably more chaffinch, siskin and redpoll. Over the weekend four brambling were reported but I only saw one in my brief visit. I think if we ever get some cold weather we could get quite large numbers of finches visiting the feeding station.


Brambling at the woodland hide in the late afternoon gloom

Over on Ibsley Water, the ring-billed gull,  slavonian grebe and black-necked grebe were all reported again.

The bonfire before Christmas

As usual a big thank you must go out to all the volunteers who came out to cut willow in the reedbed to the south-east of Lapwing Hide today. We had a great turn out of nineteen volunteers and managed to complete another section as part of our on going project of reedbed expansion and willow pollarding in this area. This benefits a range of invertebrates from wainscot and drinker moths, reed aphids and grass snakes, to birds like reed warblers and water rails. Hopefully in the future this area may be suitable for bittern and bearded tits, but this will depend if the reed and willow swamp remains flooded throughout the year, allowing invertebrate, amphibian and eel populations to build up, or at least a bit later as it currently usually dries out by late April. Bearded tits in particular feed their young on the larvae of mosquitos and non-biting knats. At present both bittern and bearded tit may turn up from time to time in the autumn and winter but are unlikely to remain for a long time in the spring.

Yesterday when checking the fire site I flushed 6 snipe from an area we cut with the Tuesday volunteers. Snipe will find winter feeding in the cut areas but move on in the spring when reed, hemp agrimony, soft rush, fleabane and nettles start to grow.


Part of the Thursday gang in action.



As the volunteers have worked so hard this year, we had a Christmas treat of baked potatoes cooked in the fire. A few kind volunteers even brought home made cakes and mince pies which disappeared very quickly. We packed up just before 3pm and made it back to the Education Centre just before it tipped down with rain.


“Good will to all reed warblers”

When I unlocked the hides this morning I saw a raven fly over Ivy Lake, a kingfisher on Ivy silt pond and a firecrest between the Woodland hide and Ivy South hide. The bittern was reported at Ivy North hide again by a visitor today too.

Birds outside the reserve

Just down the road from the reserve, a  black-throated diver has been present on North Poulner lake for a couple of week now. Back on Monday we had to get some supplies from a nearby builders merchants so we couldn’t resist having a quick at the diver. This is a quite rare bird inland in England and only second on any of the lakes in the area, the last being in 1978. North Poulner lake is a private fishing lake and the bird is only visible through a few small gaps in the fence and lakeside willows. Fortunately it was really close to the fence when we had a look and I manage to get a couple of photos, albeit with a few twigs in the way.


Black-throated diver


Diver about to dive

The bird is currently in winter plumage and doesn’t have the black throat that gives it its name, but it is still a very smart beast. Just a few hundred pairs of this species breed in Britain, all on remote lochs in north-west Scotland, but Scandinavian and Russian birds also come to winter around British coasts. This individual has mostly likely been blow inland by the recent gales.

We had another great bird sighting outside the reserve today when we headed up the road to have our team Christmas dinner at a local pub. We went for a brief wander at Amberslade Bottom in the forest before lunch and had a very brief sighting of a hawfinch in a yew tree, but topping this a great grey shrike landed close to us in a hawthorn! It flew into a oak tree a little further away when it saw us and I got one slightly distant photo of it before it moved on again. As you can see from the picture it is carrying prey, a small bird which we didn’t manage to identify.


Great grey shrike with prey

On the reserve, a count of 22 goldeneye in to roost on Ibsley Water yesterday evening was the highest count of the year so far. The black-necked grebe is still present today, along with bittern at Ivy North hide and 4 brambling at the woodland hide.

Adding up

As Bob said in the previous blog we carried out a count of wetland birds of all the lakes in area (not just the ones managed by HIWWT) yesterday morning, so I thought I’d post a few of the figures here. We managed to count 2087 birds between the two of us yesterday, most numerous being 827 coot, which sounds like a reasonable number but is actually down on November 2014’s 1006. And well down on November’s 2009’s 1802. In fact after a quick look at all the figures it would appear that most of the wildfowl counts are down too this autumn. This is for a variety of reasons but big factors are probably the current mild weather and there is noticeably less weed growth in the lakes this year. Last summer there were great rafts of pond weeds (food for duck and coot) both in Ivy lake and Ibsley Water but this year it didn’t grow nearly as well.

Other counts yesterday included 242 tufted duck, 239 gadwall, 168 wigeon, 110 lapwing, 61 mute swan, 50 pochard, 49 little grebe, 32 great crested grebe, 29 teal and 5 kingfisher. My highlight was the bittern that flew into the field of view of my telescope while I was counting tufted duck on Ivy Lake, heading north and dropped in near Ivy North Hide. We then headed back out again at dusk and counted 32 goosanders and 4 goldeneye come into roost on Ibsley Water. As well as these perhaps as many as 10,000 gulls (of at least 8 species), 6000 starlings and 500 greylag geese also roosted on (or in the case of the starlings)near this lake. The gulls turning up from 3pm onwards,  starlings moving around at about 3.50pm and the geese almost in the dark at 4.50pm. The adult ring-billed gull (a vagrant from North America)was present again from 3.45 pm. The starling’s were in several groups heading in different directions. At Goosander hide I hoped to see the otter but the only mammals we saw were a rabbit and 2 bats hunting over the lake (perhaps Daubenton’s bat but no bat detector to hand).


Rabbit at Goosander hide


Starlings in poor light from Goosander hide

Last wednesday I also visited Goosander hide one evening and saw a variety of gulls on the rails in front of the hide, mainly black-headed and lesser black-backed but also 3 adult yellow-legged gulls.


Black- headed gulls, lesser black-backed gulls and yellow-legged gull 11/11/15


Lesser black-backed gulls and 3 yellow-legged gulls (right hand side, 2 on rails 1 bird in from the left and one in the water)

The yellow-legged gulls can be identified by a combination of features including their clean white heads, darker grey wings than herring gull and yellow legs (although not as bright at this time of year as in spring and summer). I managed a slightly closer photo of one smart individual using a phone camera and telescope.


Adult yellow-legged gull, phonescoped 11/11/15

Safe to say the osprey has definitely gone now, not being since the 8th of November, making it 24 days returning to the perch. When we first put the perch I thought we might get one for a couple of hours, but 24 days was totally unexpected and very excellent. The best day for me was the 27th of October when the osprey was feeding on it’s perch and an otter swam underneath it and at one point they looked up at each other, just amazing! Here is a local wildlife artist’s impression of the scene:

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Osprey and Otter, Ibsley Water – Michelle George

A fantastic picture. Although the osprey appears to have feathered legs like a rough-legged buzzard and the otter seems to have a head the size and shape of a leopard seal’s.

Thanks to expert photographer Bryan Jones for this photo of the splitgill fungus seen on Sunday, very nice.


Splitgill fungus

Today reports have been thin on the ground due to the wet weather, but a bittern was seen flying over the woodland hide toward the Ivy silt pond reedbed at dusk.

Excellent November

November has been an excellent month for wildlife sightings over the previous 2 years and so far it has not been disappointing this year. A bittern has been reported both yesterday and today at Ivy North Hide, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we can post a photo on the blog. Yesterday the osprey performed really well, feeding on a large trout. I managed to see it from Goosander Hide at the same time as a peregrine dispatched a black-headed gull and ate it on the grass to the right of the hide.

Thanks goes to Lorne Bissell and Jon Mitchell for the following photos all taken from Goosander hide.


Digiscoped osprey – Lorne Bissell

Osprey 1

Osprey – Jon Mitchell

Osprey 2

Osprey – Jon Mitche


Otter – Jon Mitchell

Today 2 bramblings, several siskin and a lesser redpoll were reported at the woodland hide and a peregrine was seen at Tern hide.

Bramblings and ring ouzel

A few brambling have been present at the woodland hide over the last few days, with I think up to five individuals present, although I have only seen three altogether at once. Thanks to Geoff Angel for sending me this picture of a male brambling.


Male brambling by Geoff Angel

Yesterday I went to move the ponies grazing around the shore of Ibsley Water, on the northern shore there was a lot of thrushes present including several blackbirds, song thrushes and redwing. When I back to the Lapwing hide a thrush flew over me giving an unusual call, I realised it was a ring ouzel as it flew over the hide and out of view. I quickly headed to the hide and thankfully it had landed on the grass to the right of the hide and I managed to get a few photos.


Ring ouzel

Ring ouzels breed in the uplands of Britain and head south to winter in the Mediterranean with most spending the winter feeding on juniper berries in the Atlas mountains of North Africa. This individual is only the fourth record for the reserve, although they are regular passage migrants in the New Forest.


Ring ouzel and male blackbird in back ground

The ouzel seems to have moved on during the night as it has not been seen again but the osprey was still present for part of today, for it’s 19th day in a row now.

6 days of osprey

The juvenile osprey was back again today, along with a first winter little gull. It spent the majority of it’s time on the perch in Ibsley Water but did head to the western shore to bathe.

Yesterday I managed to get a couple flight shots of it when were working on the western shore.




Osprey with legs dangling

This terrible shot of it on the perch is the best I could get from Tern hide. Unfortunately the perch is a bit too far from the hide for good photos, with the kit I have anyway. We chose this area mainly because there is a shallow spot in the lake where it was easy to fix the perch to the lake bed and also we went for this distance because ospreys have fantastic long distance eyesight and are not likely to come particularly close to a hide especially if the hide is full of people.


Osprey on the perch

What can’t be seen from the pictures is that the bird has a metal ring on it’s right leg, but at this distance there is no hope of reading the number. I think it does probably indicate that it is a British bird as the majority of the British population are ringed, however it is not impossible that it has come from Scandinavia or even further east. I wonder if it’ll be here tomorrow?

Yesterday’s Slav and today’s early start

Yesterday’s Slavonian grebe on Ibsley Water appears to have moved on during the night as it hasn’t been today as far as I’m aware. This is the fifth record for the area with birds on Mockbeggar lake in November 1976, Ibsley Water in Novemeber 2004 and February 2011 and Rockford lake in January 2013. Thanks to Clive Lachan for this photo of yesterday’s bird.

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Slavonian grebe, Ibsley Water

This morning I arrived at 6.30 to assist Kevin and Brenda with there ringing studies of birds passing through the site during autumn. First a quick look from Lapwing hide showed that a fairly large roost of lesser black-backed gulls had spent night on Ibsley Water with perhaps 5000 birds present, but they didn’t hang around and had dispersed by 6.50 am.


Some of the Ibsley Water gull roost

We succeed in catching and ringing almost seventy birds, the bulk of the catch being chiffchaffs, goldcrests and long-tailed tits.


Long-tailed tit

We also caught a Cetti’s warbler, a species that didn’t breed on the reserve this year but is fairly common on the Avon nearby.


Cetti’s warbler


Cetti’s warbler, showing the large fan shaped tail

One of the highlights of the morning was a firecrest, but my photos turned fairly poorly in the early morning light. I did manage some better pictures of this goldcrest. This species is Europe’s smallest bird, with this indivdual weigh just 5.2 grams, a mere scrap of nothing when you compare it to a 2 pence coin that weighs 7 grams!



The tail feathers of this bird were sharply pointed indicating it is a juvenile fledged this year, an adult goldcrest would have broader and rounder tips to the tail.


Goldcrest tail

This bird was also a male indicated by the bright orange crown in the crown stripe, females have an all yellow crown.


Goldcrest crown   

Many thanks to Kevin and Brenda for their expertise and allowing me to join them this morning.

A good job jobbed

Back on Tuesday volunteers Adrian and Bob gave me a hand with the big task of cutting the vegetation on the eastern shore of Ibsley Water between the Goosander and Lapwing hides. The idea being to encourage fresh grass shoots to provide winter grazing for wigeon, and foraging areas for lapwing, snipe and starlings. It also improves the view of the lake shore from the hides revealing any birds feeding at the lake edge like common and green sandpipers.


View to towards Lapwing hide before any cutting has been carried out


Volunteer Adrian strimming

Yesterday we continued cutting the remainder of the vegetation and the Thursday volunteers raked up all the cuttings. I’m pleased to say we managed to complete the task by about 3.30 pm, hopefully birds will start to use the habitat almost immediately, although the bigger numbers of wigeon won’t arrive till at least the end of the month. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped, particularly Bob and Rebecca who stay on into the afternoon to help finish off yesterday.


Volunteers raking up cut vegetation


Bob mowing


View towards Lapwing hide finished job

All this work has left very little time for getting any pictures of any wildlife although I did see a wheatear, and tree pipit and clouded yellow butterfly were reported yesterday. So Steve Michelle has saved this blog from lacking in wildlife pictures by sending this photo of an otter seen on Ibsley Water last week.

Otter steve M

Otter, Ibsley Water